While meaningless in terms of the playoffs, but both teams should be hungry for a win in Week 17 as the Indianapolis Colts visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in an AFC South showdown. Kickoff is set for 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 29 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. Only fans in local markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers list the Colts as 4-point road favorites with an over/under of 43 points. Click here to see a full list of the Week 17 NFL odds.
It’s a little hard to judge Indy’s season fairly. Remember, Andrew Luck suddenly retired late in the preseason, putting the Colts in a tough position. To their credit, the Colts began the season 5-2 and looked like a playoff contender. However, Indianapolis lost six of their next seven games, culminating in a humiliating 34-7 loss to the Saints a couple of Mondays ago that knocked them out of the playoff race. On the bright side, the Colts responded well, blowing out the Panthers 38-6 at home last week. That’s a good sign that the Colts are still interested in playing hard with a lot of difficult decisions for GM Chris Ballard to make in the offseason ahead.
The season played out in a similar fashion for Jacksonville. They put all of their eggs in one basket after signing Nick Foles this past offseason, only to lose him to injury in Week 1. Rookie Gardner Minshew got the Jags to 4-4 at the midway point in the season. But things went all downhill from there with Jacksonville losing six of seven games during the second half of the season. Those problems led to Tom Coughlin being fired while the fate of head coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell, not to mention Foles, remain undecided heading into the final week of the season. Of course, win or lose in Week 17, the Jaguars have already locked up last place in the AFC South two years after playing in the AFC Championship Game.
If the Jags needed a little motivation for the season finale, they might have redemption on their minds after a 33-13 loss in Indianapolis last month. Of course, Jacksonville has won five of the last eight head-to-head meetings between the two AFC South rivals. In fact, the Colts haven’t won a game in Jacksonville since 2014.
I usually don’t like leaning toward the road favorite in games like this, but I’ll make an exception because the Jaguars have been lifeless during the second half of the season. Outside of their recent comeback win in Oakland, the Jags have lost their last six games by double figures. I’m not convinced Jacksonville even wants to play this game while the Colts showed last week they’re still motivated. Recent history tells us the Jaguars could lose by a lopsided margin, so I’ll lay down the points and lean toward Indy to cover.
The Indianapolis rushing attack that carried them early in the season finally reappeared last week. Marlon Mack was sluggish after missing time with an injury, but he racked up 95 yards on the ground last week. Jordan Wilkins also made an impact, rushing for 84 yards on just nine carries. With the way Jacksonville has defended the run this year, I’m expecting Mack and Wilkins to continue to be productive. Last week, the Jaguars couldn’t even stop Atlanta’s weak rushing attack, so I don’t like their chances of slowing down Mack now that he’s gotten back on track.
When the Colts are able to run the ball effectively, Jacoby Brissett usually plays well. He’s had mixed results this year, especially the second half of the season. But he’s a capable passer when teams have to respect Indy’s rushing attack. It’s also noteworthy that T.Y. Hilton is finally back on the field. The Colts steamrolled the Jacksonville defense for 263 rushing yards when the teams met last month, which means they shouldn’t have to lean on Brissett too much in this game.
On the other side of the ball, Minshew being reinstated as the starter earlier this month hasn’t provided a spark for the Jacksonville offense. He’s avoided turnovers, which is always good news. However, other than a strong fourth quarter against Oakland two weeks ago, Minshew hasn’t been able to jumpstart the offense. The Jaguars have been limited to 20 points or less in their last seven games, averaging less than 13 points per game during that span.
Of course, the Indianapolis defense has been somewhat average this season. They also saw Foles not Minshew when they faced Jacksonville last month. On the other hand, the Colts held the Panthers to just six points last week after three straight games of allowing 30-plus points. The Colts did a decent job of containing Christian McCaffrey, which should help them keep Leonard Fournette under wraps. Fournette alone has been enough for the Jags this year, so I remain skeptical about the Jacksonville offense, even against a vulnerable Indy defense.
In the end, nothing the Jaguars have done the second half of the season makes me think they’ll be in a position to win this game. The Colts, despite a lack of wins, have been competitive for most of the season. Indy should be able to take advantage of a lackluster Jacksonville team and cover the 4-point spread in the season finale.